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My step-son's "science" project

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
I have the most wonderful 12 year old step son, but at his mom's house the TV is on all the time and he and his brother can play video games all they please. I just asked him if he had any major homework projects over the holiday break, and he said he had a science project. He is a bright kid, but he has very few hobbies or interests and given the chance he will always take the easier route. So when he told me that he designed a project where six of his friends are taste-testing five different types of chewing gum to see which one has the longest lasting flavor, I was kind of impressed. He said he thought that Strident was going to win, which would be cool because their commercial says that their flavor lasts the longest.

And then it dawned on me... where is the science in his project? So I asked him. And he said, "well, I'm testing the scientific theory. My theory is that Strident will last the longest." Me: "Based on what? The commercial?" Him: "Well, yeah. I'm testing a theory." So I explain to him that there are lots of types of theories -- political theory, marketing theory, etc., and that he wasn't actually observing something scientific and drawing a conclusion, rather, he was testing a marketing claim. In the end we decided he could look at the ingredients and nutrition panel and try to create a theory based on what information was there. Kind of lame, but I'm just the step-mom. I don't have the authority to make him do a new project. Meanwhile, is this not just a great story (except that it is my step-son who I love dearly) about why going TV-Free makes sense? I find this to be very scary, personally. Kids are so blindsighted by TV and commercials that they no longer even know what science is... or care for that matter. Very sad.
post #2 of 6
That's a good turn around Mama. Dicey territory since your his step-mom, but it seems as though you have found a reasonable, diplomatic solution. We are TV free too. On the rare occasion that we are some where (at a relatives house or something) where a TV is on, I am appalled by what I see. Good Job Mama!
post #3 of 6
Well, to be fair, testing a marketing claim is science. It's important to recognize that that's what you're testing. It sounds like you had a good discussion with your dss about where his theory came from and what it's based on. Has he designed a protocol for measuring the amount of time the flavor lasts? How much gum are his experimental subjects going to chew in a session? Is it possible that the flavor of the third or fourth dose of gum will persist for longer simply because his testers are no longer chewing as vigorously?
post #4 of 6
That was a wonderful opening to exploring marketing claims v. reality.

Aeons (ok, a couple decades) ago when I was closer to that age, my parents go me a subscription to a Consumer Reports for Kids magazine that explored, among other things, all the ways commercials lie to us. You might see if they're still making it and get him a copy or a subscription.
post #5 of 6
Depending on the school that may have been an acceptable science project. My 10 yo tested the bacterial count of his brothers hockey equipment vs. public toilets. But another student did which type of microwave popcorn popped the most kernals.....
post #6 of 6
Neat! When I was teaching eighth-grade science, we spent some time at the beginning of the year testing advertising, which was really a sneaky way to get the kids to learn to set up a proper lab report. Kids investigated whether Oxy-clean was really the best, whether Clorox bleach was better than store-brand, whether that vegetable wash (Fit? What's that stuff called?) made a difference, etc.

The kids were delighted to find that the commercials (some of them) were lying, and we then made our own counter-commercials. We were a very multimedia school.

It sounds like your step-son's science project is an interesting one, especially with the tweaking you've done. Nice job finding more real science to add to the project!
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